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Top tips on being an employer of choice


Do you need to save money on new hires during 2009? Are you keen to hang onto your top talent when pay rises are unlikely? Tim Holden outlines the steps that can genuinely deliver results and ensure you are an employer of choice.

More and more employers are recognising that there are a number of ways that can ensure that potential applicants approach them rather than the other way round, and valued employees remain within the organisation. Here are some strategies and policies that you can put in place to guarantee that you are, and remain, an employer of choice:

Career progression
Employers of choice steal a march on organisations fishing in the same talent pool by promoting very good people faster than the competition. Avoiding a 'time served' approach to promotion rewards and retains ambitious individuals, attracts existing employees hungry for more responsibility, and inspires colleagues who can see meritocracy in action.

We find that a major factor in reducing staff turnover is honesty. This is honesty at interview, at appraisals, at disciplinary hearings, at the water cooler and honesty at the time someone knocks on the door and asks if rumours about redundancies are true. Only when openness and honesty exists can communication be effective.

"Boosting levels of engagement will engender a positive working environment and create a sense of belonging."

Corporate social responsibility
An increasing trend in recent years has been for job-seekers to examine an organisation's green credentials before applying or joining. With job stability rather than pay rises valued now more than ever, companies taking a responsible and sustainable approach to the running of their business are attractive to existing and new employees.

When times are hard no-one wants disengaged staff or people not puling their weight: it may be an opportunity to lose them and bring in enthusiastic replacements. Disengaged staff drain value from the organisation, are disruptive, less innovative, less tolerant of change and more prone to absence. To engage staff in these worrying times requires strong leadership and no great changes. Activities to engage one person may not work for others so variety is necessary, and forward-thinking employers regularly ask their employees what would make them happy. Boosting levels of engagement will engender a positive working environment and create a sense of belonging that will make voluntary resignations less likely to take place.

Health and wellbeing
Since the smoking ban brought it to the forefront of employee management, organisations are promoting health and wellbeing to improve levels of energy and reduce absenteeism. With the involvement of experts on diet, drink and drugs, ergonomics, exercise, massage and sleep, the range of opportunities to make their staff feel and work better is endless. It is important to look at examples of best practice and adapt them to suit the particular needs of your organisation to ensure that you are able to attract and retain the best people.

Leadership and management
Effective and successful leaders and managers know their people so well they get the best out of them, because they know what motivates them and makes them tick. They recognise that bullying and harassment in the team should be dealt with effectively and at the earliest possible opportunity. High-quality managers are conscious that a rounded team of individuals is necessary to stay ahead and that by hiring too many similar people brings a danger of 'clones' that all react the same way in good and difficult situations. Successful leaders inspire others, build on ideas, raise morale, do not fear the achievement of others and align people to their vision. Trust is important to them; they adhere to promises, answer queries in a reasonable time, keep confidences and treat people with respect.

Learning and development
Employers of choice respond in a positive way when something goes wrong as they believe that mistakes are opportunities for lessons to be learnt. They adopt an approach of listening, empathising, exploring what exactly happened and seeking alternative responses for the future. This fosters an environment of creativity and innovation, which may encourage someone to join the organisation that may have a job offer somewhere else, or result in a valued employee turning down a salary increase with a competitor.

"Employers of choice know that employees who leave with a smile on their face are likely to talk positively about the organisation."

More and more organisations are now providing coaching and mentoring services to relatively junior but promising staff. Larger organisations are utilising the services of in-house coaches and mentors to develop their workforce during the time they are in the firm, recognising that a job for life is now largely a thing of the past but that shorter term succession planning is a necessity. Employers of choice know that employees who leave with a smile on their face are likely to talk positively about the organisation and may even become a 'boomerang hire' bringing experience beyond the firm back into it at a later date.

Recruiting on attitude
As many candidates can show they can effectively transfer their experience to a new role, qualifications can become less important in certain sectors and certain types of job. Looking at competencies and behaviours may be more significant than whether the individual has worked for a competitor or related business. In-depth interviews allow the attitude and style of the individual to be identified at an early juncture, so that questions can be asked that will reveal whether they will fit in. We advocate interviews that involve meeting a number of different people in the organisation, in a number of locations within the site. This allows observations on how they interact with the team and allows the opinion of the team to be included in the assessment which can promote buy-in to the decision to hire.

Work-life balance
Finally, flexible working, home working and remote working are highly desirable to employees in 2009. No-one likes long commutes and many of today's workers have childcare or caring responsibilities. Many flexible workers actually work longer hours and are more committed because there is a blur between work and home life. If you aren't flexible, someone else will be.

Tim Holden is managing director of Fluid Consulting.

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